Wordle in Scala

The game Wordle seems to have come out of nowhere in recent months and become a favourite among many. In this post I will show how you can make a game similar to Wordle in Scala.

First off a quick recap of what Wordle is:

Wordle grid

Worlde is a puzzle game where you are tasked with guessing a 5 letter word in 6 guesses.
Each time you guess, you are told which letters you got in the right place, which ones are present but not in the right place and which letters are not present.
If after 6 guesses you don’t guess the word then you lose and must wait for the next word to be generated.

A Word List

So in order to make our own version of this game we will need a word list. The actual word list used by Wordle has been released/leaked online but any list of words can work, in fact, we can make our own word list from some public domain text!

Project Gutenberg is a library of thousands of books that have entered the public domain. It includes classics like Sherlock Holmes and even obscure titles. Many of these titles are available in simple text files which is exactly what we want. From a previous project using Markov chains I have already collected a selection of books that I will use.

I will try to use few libraries in this project but one I have found to be really useful in manipulating files is Pathikrit Bhowmick’s better-files library, and will be using it in the creation of my word list.

Let’s take a look at some code that generates a word list:

object WordListGenerator {

  import better.files._

  def main(args: Array[String]): Unit = {
    // arg 1 should be a folder containing our various text files
    // arg 2 should be the output path for our word list
    if (args.length < 2) {
      throw new IllegalArgumentException("Not enough arguments")
    }

    val textFolder = File(args(0))
    val outputFile = File(args(1))

    val textFiles = textFolder
      .list(
        f => f.isRegularFile && f.extension.contains(".txt"),
        1
      )
      .toSeq

    // This pattern matches only simple 5 letter words
    val regex = """([a-z]{5})""".r

    val words = textFiles
      .flatMap { file =>
        file
          // This splits each file up into a sequence of strings
          // separated by any of the characters in the given string
          .scanner(StringSplitter.anyOf("\n\t .,\""))()(
            _.iterator
              .map(_.toLowerCase)
              .filter(regex.matches(_))
              .toSeq
          )
          .distinct
      }
      .distinct
      .sorted

    // Finally write out the word list
    outputFile.bufferedWriter()(writer =>
      words.foreach(word => writer.write(s"$word\n"))
    )
  }

}

This produced a list of over 4000 words from the files I used. Unfortunately, this word list is only as good as the files it was built from and the filtering applied to them. Unlike a human curated list, my list contains many “words” that most people would struggle to guess; such as roman numerals, names and esoteric words from older English. What’s good about this code is that there is nothing stopping you from adding more filters or applying it to multiple existing wordlists to create a much larger list of words!

Many Linux distributions already come packaged with a dictionary of words that could be used in place of the gutenberg files.

I would recommend that any word list used has some further filters applied to it and goes through some manual process to avoid the pitfalls noted above. One of the word games Wordle is based on actually has a stipulation that words do not contain multiples of the same letter, this makes it a little easier than Wordle.

The Game

Onto the actual game.

Given a word list (wherever it has come from), we need to first pick a random word, then keep track of the amount of user guesses and give appropriate response to them.

A common way to model systems, including games is to use state machines. These are simple flow diagrams representing the states a system can be in and how it transitions between them. In the case of Wordle there are only really 3 states:

With Win and Lose being terminal states.

State Diagram

In Scala we can define these states using the type system, which allows us to make use of Scala’s pattern matching:

sealed abstract class State
case object Playing extends State
case object Win extends State
case object Lose extends State

Getting a random word from our file is easy enough in all programming languages, we’d simply load each line into some kind of indexed array, generate a random number between 0 and the array size, and access the corresponding index in the array. Of course, when dealing with potentially large amounts of data and only caring about a tiny amount of it we should be more conscientious about our resource usage. In out case we can do this by counting the amount of lines in the file, discarding them as we do, then reading through the file again to a random number of lines within our discovered length.

def randomWord(file: File): String = {
  val lineCount = file.lineCount.toInt
  val randomNum = Random.nextInt(lineCount)
  file.lineIterator.toSeq(randomNum)
}

Computationally this takes longer as we read the file fully once then partially again. But memory-wise it does not attempt to put the full contents of the file in memory.

With a word selected we need to be able to represent it and whether a player’s guess matches it or not. In Scala we can use a case class for this to encapsulate logic with the word itself.

sealed abstract class LetterGuess
case object Correct extends LetterGuess
case object Incorrect extends LetterGuess
case object Present extends LetterGuess

case class Word(
    letters: Seq[Char]
) {
  def word: String = letters.mkString

  def matches(guess: String): Seq[(Char, LetterGuess)] = {
    guess.zipWithIndex.map { case (c, i) =>
      val result: LetterGuess = if (letters(i) == c) {
        Correct
      } else if (letters.contains(c)) {
        Present
      } else {
        Incorrect
      }
      (c, result)
    }
  }

}

object Word {
  def apply(word: String): Word = {
    Word(word.toCharArray)
  }
}

The matches function here returns a sequence of tuples with the guessed character and degree of correctness to it.

Brining everything together, we need a way of representing the current overall state of the game, including the amount of guesses, the state the game is in and the current word:

case class GameState(
    word: Word,
    guesses: Int,
    maxGuesses: Int,
    state: State
)

object GameState {
  def apply(word: String, maxGuesses: Int = 6): GameState =
    GameState(Word(word), 0, maxGuesses, Playing)
}

With all these states it becomes pretty simple to encode the logic of Wordle into a recursive function:

def main(args: Array[String]): Unit = {
  if (args.length < 1) {
    println("arg 1: should be word list file")
    return
  }

  val wordList = File(args(0))
  val gameState = GameState(randomWord(wordList))

  playGame(gameState)
}

@tailrec
def playGame(game: Wordle.GameState): Unit = {
  game.state match {
    case Win | Lose =>
      println("Game Over")
      println(s"Word was: ${game.word.word}")
    case Playing =>
      println(s"You have ${game.maxGuesses - game.guesses} guesses left")
      val guess = Option(scala.io.StdIn.readLine())
      guess match {
        case None =>
          println("Exiting")
        case Some(guess) =>
          val newState = if (!guess.matches("""[a-z]{5}""")) {
            println("Guess must be 5 letters long")
            game
          } else {
            val guessCount = game.guesses + 1
            val check = game.word.matches(guess)

            // print out the status
            val status = check
              .map { case (c, guess) =>
                guess match {
                  case Correct   => s"[$c]"
                  case Incorrect => s"X${c}X"
                  case Present   => s"~${c}~"
                }
              }
              .mkString(" ")
            println(status)

            if (
              check.count { case (_, guess) =>
                guess == Correct
              } == check.length
            ) {
              println("You win!")
              game.copy(guesses = guessCount, state = Win)
            } else if (guessCount >= game.maxGuesses) {
              println("You lose!")
              game.copy(guesses = guessCount, state = Lose)
            } else {
              game.copy(guesses = guessCount)
            }
          }
          playGame(newState)
      }
  }
}

Here I’ve opted to surround correct letters like so [a], incorrect letters like XbX, and present but in the wrong places as ~c~. I’ve used a tail recursive function here as it helped simplify the logic somewhat. A new updated GameState object is passed to the recursively called function, with the exit condition being when the state has transitioned into either Win or Lose.

Your typical game goes something like this:

You have 6 guesses left
clamp
XcX XlX [a] XmX XpX
You have 5 guesses left
hoard
XhX XoX [a] ~r~ XdX
You have 4 guesses left
bravo
XbX [r] [a] XvX XoX
You have 3 guesses left
tranq
~t~ [r] [a] XnX XqX
You have 2 guesses left
orate
XoX [r] [a] [t] [e]
You have 1 guesses left
crate
XcX [r] [a] [t] [e]
You lose!
Game Over
Word was: frate

While not as pretty as the real Wordle, it is just as playable and in total fits into less than 130 lines of code (including all spaces).

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